Battle in Bangkok May 13 & 14- Red Shirts get what they want

After all the twists and turns the red shirts got what the hard core members wanted: a fight.

Over the past week the red shirts political party accepted the government “roadmap to reconciliation”. The red shirt leaders huffed and puffed, said they would end the protest, bickered with each other, didn’t end the protest, gave press conferences, didn’t end the protest, talked to the ex-PM, didn’t end the protest, put forth more demands, didn’t end the protest and finally the government pulled the reconciliation deal from the table and moved the military into place on Thursday.

Within an hour the leader of the red shirts special security had been shot. More about that leader: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khattiya_Sawasdipol and the incident: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/home/2010/05/15/politics/Sniper-targeted-Khattiya-from-high-rise-30129368.html

Gun battles raged Thursday night.

Friday saw downtown Bangkok inundated with sounds of gunfire, helicopters, busses on fire, streets blocked and heavy military vehicles in the streets. The military is working to push the red shirts back- not disperse them- but limit their area from just over 3 kilometers to under 2 kilometers.

When the red shirts arrived in Bangkok their goal was for the PM to call new elections, they paraded around trying to win support from local people and the entire country. The protest site was all happy, clapping, singing and smiles. How times have changed. The protest site is now a cesspool featuring some hardened looking types, no more happy songs, Molotov cocktails and barriers made of razor wire and sharpened bamboo.

Schools have re-opened from summer break, but children that attend schools in the protest site cannot go to school. Traffic delays have doubled, over 40,000 people have been unable to work in hotels and shopping malls at the protest site. Thousands of people that have apartments and homes in the protest area have seen their lives turned upside down. Some businesses have closed permanently.

This protest is in the best interest of Thailand?

All the while the fiery speeches continue from the red shirts. What was going to be a million person protest was at most 80,000 and it down to 5,000. Today one of the leaders of the red shirts said they want 1,000 new protestors to join each day. Really? Are you serious? You opted not to take the governments’ offer that would have ended the protest peacefully, and now you want others to come join and risk their life? For what? What is your goal?

This is not a protest about dissolving the government. What is left is now a group that wants a fight and is more than likely being paid to make that fight. The leaders of the red shirts don’t want to end the protest as the government refused to grant them immunity for their actions during the protest- meaning they could be tried as terrorists and face like in jail for the weapons used against government troops during the protest. The ex-military fighters working for the red shirts are rumored to be well paid, there is monetary incentive if the red shirts can bring back the ex-PM.

As a Westerner I was inclined to side with the government. What kind of country will you have if every time 60,000 people take to the streets the government has to dissolve? At some point I began to be won over by the red shirts, namely in watching how inept the government was at handling the protest.

When the red shirts had a deal that the majority of the Thai people supported and their own political party supported and then began to waver on taking the deal, it became clear to me they were not here to make Thailand better. Of course there are other agenda’s at play at all times, but this was painful to see the leaders undercut their followers agenda and continue to put their supports in harms way.

The crackdown has begun- rightfully so as order must be restored in Bangkok. The red shirts got the fight they wanted with no victory even if they win the fight. As the leaders of the red shirts hide in a massive shipping container insulated from the fighting, I hope they are happy with their decision.

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About faranginbangkok

Additional pictures: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/faranginbangkok For more updates about Bangkok, Thailand and other thoughts: www.twitter.com/lilrichardb I began working in Bangkok during 2008- a time that featured a great deal of political unrest in Thailand and particularly Bangkok. I had lived in San Francisco for 15 years and was working on a project in Thailand. Generally I spent 2 weeks in Bangkok and then 3-4 weeks in San Francisco. Did Bangkok begin to feel like home? Yes, and No. Bangkok and the Thai culture forced me to feel many things, the change in culture and environment was so dramatic it forced the decision- embrace or ignore. I embraced and made Bangkok my home and base in 2009. I have enjoyed living in Bangkok, experiencing Thailand and the entire ASEAN region.
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